In a recent legal development, one of the Bulawayo Polytechnic engineering students involved in a citywide robbery spree has been sentenced to an additional 30 years in prison after confessing to multiple counts of armed robbery.
Learn Mupande (21) was handed the supplementary 30-year sentence on Thursday for admitting to committing five additional armed robberies. Of this sentence, ten years were suspended on the condition that he refrains from engaging in similar criminal activities.
Previously, Mupande had been sentenced to an effective 15 years in prison on Wednesday, making his total prison term an effective 35 years.
The newly acknowledged counts of robbery encompass the theft of ZAR13,390 from Mukuru, two iPhone 7s and US$998.66 from Chicken Inn’s drive-through, a cellphone, handcuffs, and a baton stick from Athens Supermarket in Cowdray Park, and US$1,850 from registered money agency Tottengram Investments.
Mupande initially appeared in court alongside his accomplice, Bezel Chirova (21), also an engineering student at Bulawayo Poly. They attributed their criminal actions to the influence of extravagant lifestyles displayed on social media by celebrities.
The pair was convicted of two counts of attempted armed robbery and armed robbery by Bulawayo regional magistrate Mr. Elijah Singano. Each received a 16-year sentence, with five years suspended on the condition that they avoid similar offenses during that period.
Mupande was separately sentenced to five years for stealing a Honda Fit vehicle used in the crimes, with one year suspended on the condition of refraining from similar criminal behavior within the next five years. This results in an effective 15-year prison term for him.
In their plea for leniency, Mupande and Chirova cited societal pressures from their “well-off” peers and the influence of social media influencers’ lifestyles.
Mupande expressed, “I committed the crimes because of peer pressure. I was envious of the lives of my peers and the lives of social media influencers. I wanted to be like them, I wanted to mimic their lives, the food they ate, their dressing, and the drinks they enjoyed.”
Chirova claimed that Mupande pressured him into participating in the crimes, stating, “It was not my intention to commit these crimes. It was Mupande who pressured me into committing these crimes. He was persistent in getting me to be part of his plan.”
In delivering the sentence, Mr. Singano acknowledged the defendants’ youth, lack of experience, and peer pressure but emphasized that their actions warranted custodial sentences.
“The law is considerate of their age, maturity, and inexperience and peer pressure. They are youthful offenders and are students at Bulawayo Polytechnic. However, this does not mean they should not be punished,” he remarked. Mr. Singano also highlighted that their crimes had financial repercussions for the victims and harmed customer confidence.
Ms. Siphiwe Mhlanga represented the State in the case.